Part IV: Teaching with Primary Sources and Skills Based Assessment

This article is part IV of a five part series.

Philip Vincent, A True Relation of the Late Battell Fought In New England: Between the English, And the Salvages: VVith the Present State of Things There. London: 1637.

After watching a teacher analyze a primary source, students must do an analysis. Throughout this article series, I used CK-12’s lessons Pocahontas Basic and Pocahontas Advanced. Thankfully, CK-12 lessons normally contain several primary sources over the same topic. This is beneficial since students will be able to watch the teacher analyze a similar source to the one that they will need to examine. In part III, students watched the analysis video “A True Relation-John Smith,” which showed them how to do primary source analysis over the method of inquiry sourcing/summarizing.Now, students must analyze a different primary source that comes from the same CK-12 Pocahontas lesson; the primary source is called “General History-John Smith.” While analyzing the source, students will need to answer the questions; “who wrote the source? When was this source created?” These are the same questions that the teacher answered when analyzing the first primary source.


The First History Lesson of Mr. Ramirez

After students have watched the video on analyzing primary sources, they are now expected to complete the sourcing/summarizing skill on their own. Students can use notes from the teacher example video and their earlier lecture to help them analyze the source. Mr. Ramirez tells students where to find the new source, it is called “General History-John Smith”, and to begin analysis. This is the first time students have analyzed a source by themselves, therefore Mr. Ramirez walks around and gives advice and encouragement where needed. Mr. Ramirez reminds all students, as long as they make an attempt to analyze the source and give an original answer, they will pass. 


The first time students use a new skill, they should only be expected to make an attempt. These are not meant to be easy points, but a way to introduce students to the idea of mastery. The second page of the Social Studies Skills Rubric contains a chart that can be used for grading. The current chart contains the following levels;

  1. Not enough data

  2. Trying

  3. Emerging

  4. Proficient

  5. Mastery

The assignment that the students just completed would be considered “trying,” because the students were only meant to try and analyze the source. In order to attain the next three levels, students must complete the RACE writing strategy on the skill in order to show mastery. This goes beyond the purview of this article series, but to quickly explain, RACE is an acronym for


  • R-restate

  • A-answer

  • C-cite

  • E-explain

This concept is explained at History Forge’s video series, located at RACE Strategy-Writing. In order for students to reach master, they must incorporate all aspects of the RACE strategy to the skill.

Final Thoughts

Finding a common writing strategy to link the different methods of inquiry will be fundamental when assessing students work with skills. History Forge uses the RACE writing method, but we are sure there are others out there. If you find any, please share with us.

This lesson comes in five parts, the fifth part can be found at Part V: Teaching with Primary Sources and Skill Based Learning. This lesson is part of the Research Part I: How to “Do History”; Finding Student Strengths, Interests, and Desires; Understanding Historical Themes and Concepts. This curriculum map covers my first weeks and sets the stage for the big National History Day project and skill based learning that I teach.

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